Strategic Command Missions Rely on Space
By Maj. John Paradis, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service
OMAHA, Neb., Sept. 29, 2003 Applying the operational experience gained during the global war on terrorism to flesh out the use of space forces in theater operations is one challenge facing the new U.S. Strategic Command as it observes its first anniversary Oct. 1.
"Space is essential to everything we do," said Adm. James O. Ellis Jr., STRATCOM commander.
Ellis spoke Sept. 4 at the Strategic Space 2003 conference, a first-of-its-kind gathering of the aerospace industry community, NASA representatives and senior leaders of America's military space community.
Last year, the Defense Department built a new unified command by combining the missions and strengths of U.S. Space Command and the former U.S. Strategic Command. Since that time, the new STRATCOM reorganized its headquarters while providing critical support, including space operations, to U.S. Central Command for the war in Iraq, Ellis said.
Space support covered the entire landscape of Operation Iraqi Freedom and provided a level of precision that gave coalition forces the ability to not only understand first but to act first as well, said Ellis.
The command, however, can't rest on its laurels, said Ellis. He said the command will now strive to further refine its support to the nation's warfighters.
Only by integrating the command's aggregate strengths will STRATCOM bring its entire range of global capabilities -- space, missile defense, planning, communications, information operations, kinetic and nonkinetic strike, and intelligence -- and ensure the U.S. military stays one step ahead of any adversary, he said.
A kinetic attack is one using weapons that rely on energy -- blast, heat and fragmentation, for example -- to cause their damage. A nonkinetic attack might involve electronically disabling an enemy's computers and communication equipment.
Ellis said coordinating the application of the command's vast capabilities and providing a single source for space-based capabilities that cuts across military and space boundaries is vital.
In previous operations, space support has been applied when and where needed, but required too much time and effort by a theater commander to synchronize, Ellis said.
"Until now, theater support in our mission areas has been supplied a la carte," the admiral said. "It's like single riders from a frontier cavalry troop arriving simultaneously, or nearly so, from all points of the compass at the same time."
STRATCOM now is uniquely positioned to help plan and support an effort to combine military and national security space operations, Ellis said, adding that streamlining chains of command and avoiding duplication in space operations is one of the command's key priorities.
"Our vision must be a unified cavalry capable of a coordinated charge," said Ellis. "That means our professionals plan, train and execute side by side with regional warfighters so they are ready to deploy forward when called upon to bring unique STRATCOM capabilities to bear."
Ellis was one of several military space leaders who addressed the three-day conference. Speakers throughout the conference noted that the U.S. assault on Baghdad, the fastest advance in military history, would not have been achieved without space-based systems.
Space capabilities often are transparent -- even to those who depend on them, they said. Global positioning information, for example, allowed coalition forces to fight during sandstorms and take out military targets with minimal impact on civilians.
U.S. forces were able to use the Global Positioning System to deliver munitions within minutes of receiving intelligence data, said Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas Goslin Jr., STRATCOM deputy commander.
"Only a space-faring nation can gather real-time data on any location on the globe, translate that data into information, then make rapid decisions to act with speed and precision," said Goslin.
The tracking and positioning of ground forces -- both friendly and adversary -- rely on space-based systems, said Gen. Lance W. Lord, commander of Air Force Space Command.
"A day without space in the life of the U.S. Army is a day we're not going to be very happy about the outcome," said Lord.
(Maj. John Paradis is assigned to U.S. Strategic Command public affairs.)